PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – When Dana Romney decided to open her own concrete franchise, she had to start from scratch. At the beginning of the pandemic, Romney and her husband, Burton, made the decision to move from their home in the rural outskirts of Bellingham, Washington, to Provo, Utah. Burton’s job — as a supplier of educational materials for schools — had gone remote and largely dried up due to online learning and subsequent lack of demand, and Dana felt that opportunities for her had withered in Washington, too.

“We were kind of feeling like we just wanted to do something on our own and not have to work for somebody else, so we were looking for opportunities to do that,” she says.

Dana set to work researching business opportunities, and decided that opening a franchise was the way to go. She eventually settled on Sam the Concrete Man — a nationwide operation focused on concrete contracting — because she says the business model matched up very well with her personal values and goals.

Initially, the couple decided to go into the business as co-owners, but when Burton began to face some health difficulties, Dana stepped in and acted as the sole owner and operator.

“We launched our business in March and my husband’s health problems started at the beginning of April. We hadn’t even completed our first job when that happened and so I immediately had to start taking over all aspects of the business,” Dana remembers.

Dana and Burton Romney

During that time, she was meeting with customers, giving cost estimates, as well as hiring, vetting, and establishing relationships with subcontractors to complete the jobs.

“I’m on the books, I’m the primary business owner, and for most of the time that we’ve been [in business], I’ve been the primary person running it,” she explains.

It doesn’t appear that Romney is the only woman who found the idea of being her own boss attractive during the pandemic, either. According to reporting by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, more women than men started businesses during the pandemic, and The Washington Post reported that LinkedIn discovered a 5 percent increase in women identifying as a founder of a business on their platform.

But, even with the percentage of women-owned businesses on the rise, it’s also no secret that construction is a male-dominated industry. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women only make up 11% of the construction workforce.

However, Romney says that she hasn’t felt discriminated against in her new line of work. Mostly, people are very friendly, or — at the most — surprised at her gender when they meet her.

“I never felt like I was discriminated against or that they didn’t want to work with me,” she says. “I think what’s fun, though, is that they’re kind of surprised. I’ve felt surprise from customers, suppliers; they’re kind of interested that it’s a female doing this and they’re interested that I seem to know what I’m talking about.”

And, she says, although men in the construction field are often prized for their physical abilities, she feels that women bring something unique to the table, too.

“A lot of women, like myself, are very detail-oriented. I found that, in service fields, that is sometimes lacking,” she says. “I think customers are really looking for someone who can follow through and make sure things get done and that they’re done the way they want them to get done.”

She says that she feels this attention to detail has caused her to stand out from the competition.

“I’m not saying that men aren’t necessarily detail-oriented, but it’s different,” she says. “I just feel like I bring a different perspective that hasn’t been there before.”

And although Dana and Burton are back to running their franchise of Sam the Concrete Man as partners, Dana has some advice for other women who might want to be their own boss.

Above all, she says women should never sell themselves short.

“It was a little bit intimidating coming into a field that I knew nothing about,” she remembers. “But I would just say don’t limit yourself because you can always learn something new. I’m definitely a proponent of lifetime learning and we don’t ever stop trying new things and learning new things. If you limit yourself, you’re going to miss out.”